CLEVELAND – The Grand Rapids Griffins extended their point streak to six games (5-0-0-1) with a 6-3 victory over the Cleveland Monsters on Super Bowl Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena.
After claiming five out of a possible six points in this week’s three consecutive matchups on the shores of Lake Erie, Grand Rapids (24-18-1-5) has climbed into the Central Division’s fourth and final playoff spot with two months remaining in the regular season. The Griffins return home to play three straight inside friendly confines, a stretch that will begin Wednesday at 7 p.m. against the Western Conference-leading Manitoba Moose.
Eric Tangradi (2-1—3) and Matt Puempel (1-2—3) both posted three-point efforts as the duo continue to jockey for the team lead in goals and exit today’s game tied with 19 apiece. In total, 11 different Griffins found the scoresheet. Jared Coreau stopped 25 shots, including 11 in the opening period, to earn his 10th victory in his last 14 appearances between the pipes.
After Coreau helped the Griffins endure Cleveland’s (14-24-4-3) 5-0 advantage in shots through the opening five minutes, defenseman Robbie Russo gave Grand Rapids the early lead at the 6:16mark on the team’s first attempt of the afternoon. As the Griffins responded with pressure of their own, Zach Nastasiuk corralled a rebound in the slot and slipped a pass to Russo, who snuck behind Jeff Zatkoff at the far post. With his stick on the ice, the blueliner redirected Nastasiuk’s feed for his fifth goal of the campaign.
Cleveland knotted the score with 3:41 remaining in the first period. After 51 seconds had elapsed onDylan McIlrath’s tripping infraction, Zac Dalpe’s blast from just inside the left point found its way through a trafficked crease and over Coreau’s catching glove.
Turner Elson scored his ninth goal of the season 4:47 into the middle frame to put the Griffins back on top. Along the far boards, Russo drew the attention of two Monster defenders, spun and dropped a backhanded pass to Elson high in the slot, who fired a shot past a screened Zatkoff.
Tangradi advanced Grand Rapids’ lead to two just 2:23 later. After Ben Street gained the zone, he left the puck for his linemate at the right circle. Tangradi’s initial swipe was denied, but he followed his own shot and popped the rebound into a vacated right side of the cage.
Cleveland converted on the power play with 10:16 remaining in the period and cut its deficit to 3-2. Jordan Schroeder’s shot from the left circle went wide of the net but the puck caromed around to Tyler Motte, who was stationed by the right post and had no trouble finishing into an open net.
Puempel put Grand Rapids back up by two goals with 7:52 to play in the middle stanza. Corey Elkins recovered the puck in the right corner and passed to Puempel at the bottom of the near circle. With time to line up his shot, Puempel lifted one inside the right post and extended his point streak to an AHL career-high nine games.
Street added to the Griffins’ cushion at the 14:37 mark, scoring his eighth goal of the campaign. Just 10 seconds after Grand Rapids’ power play expired, Matt Lorito’s shot from the right circle rebounded in front for Street to knife in and paddle past the Cleveland netminder.
Cleveland trimmed its deficit to 5-3 6:06 into the third period as Blake Siebenaler banked a shot off the left post and in from the blue line.
Grand Rapids put a severe dent in Cleveland’s hopes for a comeback by fending off 41 seconds of a 5-on-3 Cleveland advantage past the midway portion of the period that was highlighted by Coreau’s point-blank glove save on Terry Broadhurst. Tangradi put the finishing touches on the game with a power play tally, his second goal of the game, at the 15:49 mark.
The effects of Grand Rapids and Cleveland squaring off for the third time in a 66-hour span were evidenced by three separate fights.
The Griffins’ power play finished 1-for-4 and has scored at least a goal in six of the last seven games while Cleveland converted twice on its six man-advantages. Jeff Zatkoff took the loss and stopped 19-of-25 shots.
Notes: Todd Nelson coached in his 200th game with the Griffins…Grand Rapids has claimed points in 10 of its last 11 road games (8-1-0-2), including six in a row…The Griffins improve to 5-1-0-1 in the season series against the Monsters…Rookie defenseman Filip Hronek finished with two assists and a plus-five rating...The Griffins played on Super Bowl Sunday for the second time in franchise history, with the first occurrence coming Feb. 3, 2002.
Three Stars: 1. GR Tangradi (two goals, assist); 2. GR Puempel (goal, two assists); 3. GR Street (goal, assist)